A new drug prevention program has been created to teach middle school and high school students about the dangers of abusing prescription opiates. The program, known as Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE), launched in the states of Illinois and Pennsylvania.
This new program was created to address the growing number of prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States, particularly from narcotic drugs. Prescription drugs were responsible for more than half (51.8 percent) of drug overdose deaths in 2013. Of the 22,767 deaths from prescription drug overdoses in 2013, 71 percent (16,000) involved prescription opioid analgesic drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, these overdose deaths have increased nearly 50 percent over the past several years.
Part of the reason that opioid overdose deaths are on the rise is that growing numbers of teens have been abusing these drugs. Teens often fail to realize the serious risks involved in abusing prescription medications, which can be as dangerous as abusing illegal drugs.
NOPE Prevention Program – A New Approach
NOPE is one of several new prevention programs aimed at teenagers in response to the growing prescription drug abuse epidemic. The long-running substance abuse prevention program DARE adopted a prescription drug abuse curriculum in 2007, but many experts believe that programs targeting one major substance abuse issue are more effective than programs that try to address all kinds of substance abuse. A number of studies have also brought the overall effectiveness of the DARE program into question.
The NOPE program is also trying to move teenage substance abuse prevention away from the scare tactics that dominated anti-drug efforts like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” public awareness campaign of the 1980s and ’90s. Experts contend that trying to frighten young people away from drug use without educating them about it can backfire; once teens do begin to acquire knowledge about drug use that contradicts what they were taught, they may dismiss earlier warnings altogether.
Instead, the developers of NOPE say that they used interactive computer programs and lengthy studies to create a curriculum that focuses on the science of drug use and addiction. Furthermore, the program does not simply rely on deterring teenagers from opioid abuse altogether in order to save lives. Instead, NOPE instructors teach middle and high school students how to recognize the signs of opioid overdose, and emphasize the need to call for emergency medical assistance right away in the event of an overdose.
This is not to say that NOPE does not strongly discourage teenagers from abusing prescription narcotics. The hour-long programs emphasize that prescription drugs are extremely dangerous when used recreationally and focus on the many teenage victims of opioid overdoses. The program’s website says that the standard NOPE presentation is “purposefully blunt and evokes powerful emotions.” As an example of this, a recent Reuters article on NOPE describes a segment during which an auditorium of high school students listens to the desperate 911 call of a mother after finding her son dead from an opioid overdose.
Substance Abuse Prevention Program’s Struggle For Funding
While teenage drug abuse continues to be a serious problem, prevention programs face an uphill battle in many schools. In 2011, funding was cut to the department now known as the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, which paid for substance abuse prevention in schools. Increasing such funding has come under attack as the effectiveness of these programs is questioned and a new emphasis on academic testing takes up a larger portion of school budgets.